I remember when I first got involved in the writing communities online, some of them romance, some of them not. And in the non-romance communities, like where people wrote literary and science fiction and whatever, it was pretty well established that writing romance or erotica was selling out. Okay, so, I had to stop hanging out there…
But I still see it sometimes, the idea that at least we’re romance authors, not erotic romance authors. At least we’re published authors, not self-published authors. At least we’re writing about vampire sex, not dinosaur sex. At least we write about what we love and not BDSM Billionaire Cowboy Cagefighters like those other sellouts.
And I just… I don’t know where this hierarchy came from. I don’t know why it’s here.
How do we know they didn’t always love writing BDSM Billionaire Cowboy Cagefighters and the money is just gravy?? And how do I know that those authors of dino-erotica aren’t genuinely turned on by their subject and happy to be writing it? Why is that supposed to be shameful?
Most of the writers I interact with now are romance authors. I assume it’s because they want to be and not (only) because of money. Because… frankly… if you’re that focused on money, there are probably better ways to make it.
When you chat about day jobs, or old jobs, with writers you find out there are a lot of techie folks (like me), lawyers, corporate-types. It takes a LOT of books to match a six figure salary. I have definitely not sold that many books and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. So, I mean, everyone’s situation is different, but I’m just always going to assume that people are writing for the love of it. That is not only an idealistic view—it’s a logical one.
That said, I do want to make money. I want to make money so that I can pay my bills. And I want to make money so that I can continue to spend most of my time writing instead of going back to that tech job. It’s for the love of writing that I want to make money. It’s for the love of living too. Why is that supposed to be shameful?
Even if you knew that I started writing [insert trend here] after it became a trend, as opposed to before, would that be wrong? Even if you knew I wrote it with the express goal of making as much money as possible, would that be wrong?
I don’t think so.
To me, if you sold out, you’d have to betray your principles. Selling out a friend, for example, would be a betrayal. But how can I sell out my writing? To know that, I have to know what my writing principles are…
For sure, I can tell you what they aren’t. I have no desire to put down an entire genre. I’m sorry but that’s just silly. Yes, there are genres I don’t care to read. In no way can I make the logical jump from “I don’t want to read this genre” to “this genre objectively sucks.”
As to what my writing principles are…
I try to write the best book I can, from a technical standpoint. Ideally my writing would be lyrical and compelling. I study story structure, etc, so that I can get better at that larger scale too. Also, just the way that I write, characters come to me first. So I try to find their voice and then remain as loyal to it as I can.
Another writing principle relates to the wonkomance stuff, like I want to write the characters that are a little off-beat, a little quirky, and maybe not that well represented in the romance canon.
And I follow these principles—because I don’t really know any other way to write. If I sat down to write something else, there’d be no passion. I’d be bored as hell. Readers would be bored as hell.
Maybe someone else can disdain a genre and still write a bestselling book in it—but that isn’t me. Because I wouldn’t have enough passion to even finish the damn thing, for one. And because there’s not a single genre I disdain, for another.
Selling out is literally not an option. There’s really no way I can break my writing principles and sell more books.
Here’s the thing. I’m still a relatively new writer. I keep writing, one book and then another. At some point, if one of my books breaks out, that would be awesome, right? Yay!
But if it did, are people really going to point to the wonky aspects of my book and say, see? Clearly people want more wonk! Well, we at Wonkomance might say that :) But mostly, no. They’re going to find the parts that are similar to popular books or trends, and say it’s for those reasons.
I have a book coming out next week, How to Say Goodbye. If it flops, is it because the heroine is repressed and the hero is homeless? Because those are pretty wonky things… But if, in some alternative universe, it broke out and did super well, people would assume it’s because it’s new adult and new adult is popular.
There was a book that made the rounds with a lizard hero, and hey, I didn’t read it but that sounds a bit unique. And then I saw people saying it wasn’t new at all, because the lizard was basically the same old alpha hole. The point is that no matter how wonky you go, there are always recognizable aspects to a story. Which parts are responsible for its success? Which ones for its failure? I’m not sure it can be deconstructed like that, at least for my books and the way I make them.
I write what I write. The characters come to me, and I try to stay true to them.
As for sales, they come or don’t come. I don’t feel like I have much control over that, but if I could choose either, I would definitely vote for making money. And there shouldn’t be any shame in that.